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Biblical Connections to Familiar Phrases and Sayings III

From passages regarding Cain and Abel to wisdom found in the Code of Hammurabi, the English language has showcased terms and phrases that have beginnings and connections to the Bible. In this article, you may find that your favorite saying is one of the many sayings that first appeared in a religious text.

“am I my brother’s keeper?”

Appearing in everyday conversation, literary publications, and movies, the phrase “Am I my brother’s keeper?” originated in the Bible. The meaning is quite literal and makes reference to the tale of Cain and Abel , brother that appear in Genesis. In Genesis IV 9, you will find: ” And the Lord said unto Cain, where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother’s keeper?”

“an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth”

The concept of revenge and ‘justice’ has been around for centuries. The Biblical reference comes from the Code of Hammurabi, who was a King of Babylon. In the King James Version of the Bible, “Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth” is used to reference the concept that for every wrongdoing committed, a measure of justice that follows along the same lines should be enacted.

“as white as snow”

Was Shakespeare the first person to make a reference to being ‘as pure as the driven snow?’ Used to refer to pure white, the saying appears in the King James Version of the Bible in Daniel 7:9: “I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire.”

“bite the dust”

Another one bites the dust seems like a modern saying, especially if it’s part of one of your favorite songs. However, the origin of the phrase (which means to fall to the ground , wounded or dead) appears in the King James Version of Psalms 72 when it was referred to as ‘lick the dust.’ The full quote is “They that dwell in the wilderness shall bow before him and his enemies shall lick the dust.” The term of ‘bite the dust’ appeared in a work by Scottish author Tobias Smollett when he penned, “We made two of them bite the dust, and the others betake themselves to flight.” In 700 BC, the saying made its way into the epic poem by Homer called the Iliad , “Grant that my sword may pierce the shirt of Hector about his heart, and that full many of his comrades may bite the dust as they fall dying round him.”